Saturday, September 24, 2016

Evolve 57 Review

Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano defend the Evolve Tag Team Titles against Team Tremendous!

As I mentioned in my review of Evolve 56, “Speedball” Mike Bailey missed these shows due to travel issues. Tommaso Ciampa will be taking his place against TJ Perkins on this particular show.

Evolve 57
Brooklyn, New York 3/20/16

1.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Fred Yehi: **3/4

Yehi is still searching for that elusive first victory in Evolve, while Page is still trying to prove to everyone in Evolve (Johnny Gargano in particular) that he has changed. I thought this was a fine match, but it was relatively short (lasting around five minutes or so). There were some good exchanges, but it was expecting this to be a little better than it ended up being. Page would end up scoring the victory here with the Package Piledriver.

After the match, Anthony Nese came out and attacked Ethan Page with a chair. He cut an angry promo where he complained about “fat guys” like Ethan Page in pro-wrestling. Caleb Konley then came out and said that he was going to win the Evolve Title tonight, and that The Premiere Athlete Brand would be the next Evolve Tag Team Champions.

2.) TJ Perkins vs. “Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa: ***1/2

As I mentioned at the start of this review, Ciampa is taking the place of “Speedball” Mike Bailey in this match. I feel like TJ Perkins & Tommaso Ciampa have wrestled each other in ROH before, but I honestly can’t remember. As far as this match is concerned, I thought it was pretty good. It’s really awesome to see Ciampa making appearances in Evolve. I think he fits in pretty well. There was some nice back & forth action between these two throughout the match, including a few great near falls towards the end. Eventually, TJ Perkins locked in the knee bar on Ciampa, and got him to tap out to score the submission victory. A very good weekend for TJ Perkins, as a whole. Two really good matches, and more importantly, two victories.

3.) Chris Hero vs. Matt Riddle: ****1/4

I think it’s fair to say that Chris Hero was going to be one of Matt Riddle’s toughest opponents to date. Going into this match, I was really intrigued to see how well Riddle meshed with Hero, but by the time it ended, I had my answer. These two had an awesome match! Both guys worked very hard, and it resulted in a match that was an easy contender for MOTN. I thought it was pretty cool that Hero actually targeted Riddle’s feet (since Riddle wrestles barefoot). There was some great stuff between these two, and in the end, Riddle shocked the world when he got Chris Hero to tap out!! This was easily the biggest win of Matt Riddle’s career, up to this point. A great match between these two that’s definitely worth checking out.

Up next, we were originally scheduled to get Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway defending the Evolve Tag Team Titles against Team Tremendous, but Gargano came out and announced that Galloway hadn’t arrived to the building yet (Galloway had worked a TNA TV Taping the night before in Orlando). This was basically the reverse of what happened at Evolve 53, when Galloway was waiting for Gargano to make it to the show after doing a NXT TV Taping. He said that Galloway was airborne, as asked for the Evolve Tag Team Title match to be delayed. Caleb Konley then came out and attacked Gargano! He demanded that his match for the Evolve Title take place right now! Thatcher comes out, but gets attacked from behind by Sami Callihan before the match could begin, leaving the Evolve Champion as easy pickings for Konley.

4.) Evolve Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Caleb Konley: **1/4

So they’ve actually been building up to this title match for awhile, as Konley had been highly ranked in the Top 5 Standings for quite some time, but had yet to receive a title shot until now. Honestly, this match wasn’t that good. I wouldn’t call it “horrible”, but as an Evolve Title match, I thought it was incredibly disappointing and pretty boring. I think a number of factors led to this match turning out the way it did. Firstly, the match was WAAAY too long. It went just over 25 Minutes, but it felt like it went on forever. I’m sure part of that was due to the fact that they had to stall for time so Galloway could get there in time for the Main Event, but still, these two in particular didn’t need to go this long. Then, these two guys just didn’t mesh well together, and that also took away from the match. Throw in some ref bumps, interference from Andrea, and a crowd that just didn’t care at all, and you have a match that just didn’t work. Thatcher eventually scored the win to retain the Evolve Title in a really boring and disappointing match.

After the match, Matt Riddle came out. He congratulated Thatcher (or “Trashy Tim”, as Riddle likes to call him) on not cheating to win, and says that he wants a rematch for the Evolve Title in Dallas, Texas at the WWNLive Experience. Thatcher agreed to the rematch, but then was blindsided by a jumping knee strike from Riddle.

5.) Sami Callihan vs. Tracy Williams: ***1/4

This match came about after an altercation between Callihan and Catch Point at Evolve 55, followed by a confrontation between Callihan and Tracy Williams the night before at Evolve 56. Their was some good stuff in the match, and two definitely brought some intensity, but I think this was another match that suffered because it just went too long. Thankfully, the length of time the match went didn’t hurt it nearly as much as it did in the Evolve Title match, because these two were able to keep things interesting. In the end, Callihan was able to pick up the win over Williams.

6.) Best In The World Challenge Series – Match #2 – Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Drew Gulak: ****1/4

This is the second match in Zack Sabre Jr.’s Best In The World Challenge Series. What I really like about this whole thing is that Zack Sabre Jr. is wrestling five totally different opponents, which I think adds a lot of intrigue to each match, as he has to overcome a different set of challenges with each opponent. Here, he’s facing another grappler in the form of Drew Gulak. I thought this match was great! For me, it’s right up there with Hero vs. Riddle in the MOTN discussion. This was another match that went really long, but I don’t think the length affected this match nearly as much as the other two. Maybe that’s because I was sort of expecting this match to go long, considering the guys involved. Anyway, there was obviously a lot of really solid wrestling here, with lots of holds and counters exchanged throughout. Even though it was long, they managed to keep me engaged from start to finish. Eventually, Zack Sabre Jr. would get the submission victory over Gulak to go to 2-0 in his Best In The World Challenge Series!

After the match, Chris Hero came out. He cut a promo saying that he’s beaten some of the best wrestlers in the world (name-dropping Bryan Danielson & CM Punk), and that he wants to be known as the Greatest Of All Time. Hero, who is the 5th and final opponent in the Best In The World Challenge Series, reminds Zack Sabre Jr. that he’s knocked him out, and beaten him, on two occasions (Evolve 48 & Evolve 53). Drew Gulak takes the mic, and then reminds Hero (who he called a “350 pound kung fu turkey) that he needs to worry about Catch Point.

7.) Evolve Tag Team Titles – Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano vs. Team Tremendous: ***3/4

I know this might not have been the intended Main Event, due to Galloway trying to make it from the TNA TV Tapings in Orlando, Florida, but I think it was the right Main Event anyway, considering that these shows (in the NYC area) give Team Tremendous a home field advantage. Unlike what happened at Evolve 53, the absent party (Galloway, in this case) was able to make it to the venue before the match started. Galloway cut a funny promo about having to change into his gear in a taxi, and mentions that he & Gargano are even now. He then waists no time and jumps Team Tremendous to get things going. I thought this match was actually pretty good. Both teams looked very solid, and in general, it was just an entertaining Main Event. It was really nice to see Team Tremendous get such a big opportunity in a Main Event spot, while Gargano & Galloway have improved as a team with each outing. After a hard fought contest, Gargano & Galloway ended up retaining their Evolve Tag Team Titles to close the show.

Overall: 8.0/10

While this wasn’t quite as good as Evolve 56, I still thought Evolve 57 was a pretty solid show, as a whole. It actually had a lot in common with Evolve 56, as it had two awesome matches (in this case, Chris Hero vs. Matt Riddle & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Drew Gulak), and a really disappointing Evolve Title defense from Timothy Thatcher. The show dragged a lot in the middle, with Thatcher vs. Caleb Konley for the Evolve Title and Sami Callihan vs. Tracy Williams both going much longer than they needed to. I don’t totally put the blame on them, though, as they had to stretch things out so Drew Galloway could actually make it to the show. Speaking of which, Galloway & Johnny Gargano vs. Team Tremendous ended up being a really solid Main Event, and there was also a very good undercard match in the form of TJ Perkins vs. Tommaso Ciampa. Again, while Evolve 56 was the better of the two shows on this weekend, Evolve 57 was still a very solid show with a number of matches that are worth checking out.

Evolve 56 Review

Timothy Thatcher defends the Evolve Title against Matt Riddle, while Zack Sabre Jr.'s Best In The World Challenge Series begins!!

A few notes before I go into my review. Originally, “Speedball” Mike Bailey was going to be on the show. I believe he was scheduled to face Ethan Page, but unfortunately, travel issues prevented him from making the show. Sadly, it was later discovered that Mike Bailey ended up having major visas issues trying to go from Canada to the United States, and these issues led to him being barred from crossing the border into the United Sates for five years. This means that he won’t be appearing in any promotions in the United States for the foreseeable future.

There was also an appearance made before the show (for the live crowd only) by NXT General Manager William Regal who announced that Evolve would be hosting U.S. Qualifying Matches for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series, which would later be known as the WWE Cruiserweight Classic.

Evolve 56
Queens, New York 3/19/16

1.) Sami Callihan vs. TJ Perkins: ***1/2

Callihan is actually coming off a stellar return to Evolve on the shows that took place several weeks prior during Royal Rumble Weekend. He was part of legitimate MOTYC on Evolve 53, where he (subbing for the injured Timothy Thatcher) teamed with Zack Sabre Jr. against Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero & Tommy End) as part of the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament. After their team was eliminated from the #1 Contender’s Tournament on Evolve 54 (interestingly enough, as the Catch Point duo of Drew Gulak and his opponent on this show, TJ Perkins), Callihan actually went on to defeat Zack Sabre Jr. at Evolve 55. He’s taking on TJ Perkins here in the opening match of Evolve 56, and I thought this was a pretty good match. I know a lot of people are critical of Callihan, but honestly, as of this point, I thought his return was going pretty well. He really had yet to have any subpar performances. Perkins, of course, looked great, as he always does. He never fails to amaze me in the ring with some of the things he can do. There were some really nice exchanges between the two, but in the end, TJ Perkins would get the submission victory over Callihan.

After the match, TJ Perkins cut a quick promo where he reminded everyone (including NXT General Manager William Regal) that he was a free agent.

2.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Jack Gallow: **1/2

As I mentioned earlier, I think “Speedball” Mike Bailey was originally scheduled to face Ethan Page, but he has his aforementioned travel issues, so a local wrestler by the name of Jack Gallow is getting an opportunity here. This was already. Gallow got some offense in, but as you would expect, Ethan Page got the win here in relatively quick fashion.

3.) Drew Gulak vs. Fred Yehi: ***1/4

Yehi is coming off a disappointing run in the 2016 Style Battle Tournament, where he went 0-2. He’s still searching for his first win in the promotion as he takes on the leader of Catch Point, Drew Gulak. I thought this match was good, but it didn’t think it was nearly as good as other reviews suggested. Again, it’s not like I thought the match was bad or anything. It was slow at times, and there were parts were I was getting a little bored, but I still thought the match was good. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as others seemingly did. Gulak would eventually get the win with a Dragon Sleeper, which (I believe) he calls the Gu-Lock.

After the match, Yehi requested a handshake. Gulak took the mic, and said that while he thought that Yehi had potential, he hadn’t earned a handshake just yet. Tracy Williams (Gulak’s protégé and Catch Point stablemate) comes out, and demands that Chris Hero come out to the ring for their match right now! He also tells Gulak to go to the back, saying that he can handle Hero.

4.) Chris Hero vs. Tracy Williams: ****1/2

This issue goes back to Evolve 48, where Hero attacked and knocked out Drew Gulak, Tracy Williams, & Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher to end the show. I had a feeling that this match was going to be good, but it was even better than I could have imagined. I thought this was an awesome match!! Hero was, of course, his usual awesome self, and adds this match to his lengthy file of incredible matches in 2016. Tracy Williams was also really impressive here as well. When it comes to Evolve in 2016, I know all of the hype is surrounding Matt Riddle (as it should), but Tracy Williams deserves some credit as well. He’s really had a breakout year in 2016, and this was another great match from him. There was a lot of great, hard-hitting action between these two. In the end, Hero would go on to pick up the win, but I don’t think Williams lost anything in defeat.

After the match, Hero cuts a short promo where he starts referring to himself as “The Greatest of All-Time”.

5.) The Premiere Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley with Andrea) vs. Team Tremendous: ***

As I mentioned in some of my more recent Evolve reviews, it appeared at this point that The Premiere Athlete Brand was starting to wind down. They were completely blitzed in the both the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament and the #1 Contender’s Tournament, and Caleb Konley has been obsessed with Timothy Thatcher and the Evolve Title (and he would get his shot on the next show, Evolve 57). Here, they’re taking on Team Tremendous, who beat them in the first match of that #1 Contender’s Tournament at Evolve 54. Of course, Team Tremendous won that tournament, and will be getting the first shot at the Evolve Tag Team Titles at Evolve 57. While this match was decently good, it didn’t even come close to matching their encounter from Evolve 54. Interference from Andrea led to Konley picking up the win for his team. I’m curious as to why this match was booked, because you have your title contenders for the next show in this one match. If anything, Nese should have taken the fall, as he didn’t have a title shot of any kind at the time. Having Team Tremendous lose before their shot at the Evolve Tag Team Titles wasn’t smart, in my opinion.

6.) Best In The World Challenge Series – Match #1 – Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Johnny Gargano: ****1/2

This is the first match in Zack Sabre Jr.’s Best In The World Challenge Series, where he’s testing himself against some of the best competition Evolve has to offer. First up is the icon of Evolve, and WWNLive in general, Johnny Gargano. I really enjoyed this match. I thought it was awesome! These guys are two of the best wrestlers in the entire world, and they showed why in this match. There was just incredible stuff in this match from start to finish. What I thought was so cool about this match was that it was just as good as Chris Hero vs. Tracy Williams from earlier in the show, but it was a completely different match. It’s honestly a tossup when it comes to MOTN, as both are worthy contenders. Eventually, Zack Sabre Jr. would score the submission victory over Gargano.

After the match, The Premiere Athlete Brand ran out and attacked Gargano, saying that were coming for the Evolve Tag Team Titles. Ethan Page comes out to make the save, in another attempt to prove to Johnny Gargano that he was a changed man. He would go on to tell Gargano that when Drew Galloway isn’t here, Ethan Page will have his back.

7.) Evolve World Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle: **3/4

This match has been building since Evolve 51, when in an impromptu Main Event, Riddle turned on Thatcher and aligned himself with Catch Point. I thought this match was a really mixed bag. The two had some fun exchanges, and it felt like they were building to a big conclusion, but then there was a weird finish where Thatcher did a “kind of/sort of” low blow, and then took him down with a headbutt to score the pin and retain his Evolve Title. Again, there were some flashes of a great match here, but it just ended so abruptly, and was a lot shorter than I was anticipating. The match wasn’t bad by any means, but for all of the hype it had received going in, it turned out to be pretty disappointing.

After the match, Drew Gulak (who was at ringside with the rest of Catch Point) got in the ring immediately and started chastising Thatcher for the way he won the match, saying that Thatcher cheated, and in doing so, was disgrace to the Evolve Title. Sami Callihan (who was getting a shot at the Evolve Title during the WWNLive Experience in Dallas) then came out of nowhere and attacked Thatcher. Tracy Williams quickly responded by attacking Callihan as the show came to a close.

Overall: 8.5/10

As a whole, I thought this was a very strong show from Evolve, continuing the run of consistently good shows that has been going since September of 2014. You had two absolutely fantastic matches in the form of Chris Hero vs. Tracy Williams & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Johnny Gargano. Those two matches alone make this show worth checking out. You also had a really solid opener with Sami Callihan vs. TJ Perkins, and a relatively solid undercard. The only real knock on this show was the Main Event, which was definitely a disappointment. Other than this, this was definitely another really solid offering from Evolve.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Evolve 55 Review

The Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament, The 2016 Style Battle Tournament, and the #1 Contender's Tournament conclude!!

Evolve 55
Orlando, Florida 1/24/16

1.) Four-Way Freestyle – Anthony Nese (with SoCal Val & Andrea) vs. “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Fred Yehi vs. Jason Cade: ***1/4

So in a weird move, they decided not to do the Peter Kaasa/Fred Yehi match from the Style Battle Tournament. I was a little upset that they didn’t do that match, but maybe Kaasa had gotten hurt on that dive the previous night against Tracy Williams. Anyway, Fred Yehi is in this Four-Way Freestyle with Anthony Nese, Ethan Page (who is continuing his “Trial Series” to prove himself) and Jason Cade. I thought this was a fine opening match. All four guys got a chance to shine, and it was pretty entertaining from start to finish. The only gripe I had with this match concerned the finish. Ethan Page accidentally took out the referee, and when he went to check on the referee, Anthony Nese would take advantage and scored the win.

After the match, Caleb Konley came out and cut a promo where he congratulated Nese on his victory (in a half-hearted manner), before reminding everyone (again) that Timothy Thatcher was ducking his challenge. Konley asked for some real competition, and he got some, in the form of Tommaso Ciampa!

2.) Caleb Konley (with SoCal Val & Andrea) vs. “Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa: ***1/2

Ciampa had a really good match the night before at Evolve 54 against Ethan Page, and he would have another really good match here with Caleb Konley. While I think the match could have had one or two minutes shaved off (a similar complaint I had with some of the matches from Evolve 54), this was still a very enjoyable match. I’ve always enjoyed Tommaso Ciampa, while Caleb Konley, who has always been an underrated guy in Evolve, showed a lot here as well. It was a very solid match, and I really liked it. In the end, Konley would get a huge win over Ciampa here, further staking his claim to an Evolve Title shot.

3.) Sami Callihan vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ***3/4

So these two were partners in the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament (with Callihan filling in for the injured Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher), but after two losses, the team broke down, and now we have this match. In an interesting note, these two actually have some history, as Callihan defeated Zack Sabre Jr. on an early Evolve event back in 2011 (Evolve 7, to be exact). I noticed that some were a little down on this match, but honestly, I really liked it. Again, it went a little too long for my liking (seemingly a running theme on this set of shows), but the match had a lot of very solid action in it. These two have shown throughout this weekend that they have some good chemistry, both as a tag team and in a singles match. Sami Callihan getting the win here was a surprise, but I guess they’re building towards an Evolve Title match involving Callihan, so in that regard, it makes sense.

4.) 2016 Style Battle Tournament – Finals – Matt Riddle vs. Tracy Williams: ****1/2

Both members of Catch Point come into this match with 2-0 records. We did get a quick pre-match promo from the leader of Catch Point, Drew Gulak, where he basically said, “may the best man win”. These two actually squared off at Evolve 52, in Orlando (right before Riddle joined Catch Point). That encounter was relatively solid, but this match completely blew that previous match out of the water. This was absolutely amazing!! It was easily the best match of Riddle’s career, and an outstanding performance from Tracy Williams. These two just beat the crap out of each other right from the opening bell, and we saw some awesome action throughout this match. This included Riddle hitting a jumping tombstone piledriver, and Williams hitting a nasty piledriver, which saw Riddle popping up in the air! That looked crazy. In the end, Riddle eventually got Williams to tap out to win the 2016 Style Battle Tournament. I know Riddle will get the attention here (deservedly so), but honestly, this was a star-making performance for both men.

After the match, Riddle cuts a promo saying that since he won the Style Battle Tournament, and since he is still undefeated, he wants a shot at Evolve Title against “Trashy Tim” on March 19th. This brings out Timothy Thatcher, and Riddle asks whether Thatcher will accept his challenge, or just be a “pussy”. Thatcher accepts, but then Caleb Konley comes out. He, once again, demands an Evolve Title shot, and slaps Thatcher in the face. Sami Callihan then appears out of nowhere and takes out Thatcher, Konley, and Andrea (who, I guess, came out with Konley). Callihan stares down with Riddle for a second before the rest of Catch Point attacks Callihan. Riddle continued to taunt Thatcher, which Gulak proclaimed that Catch Point owned all of them. A very interesting segment here. They set up a number of title matches for Timothy Thatcher, while also (once again) establishing Catch Point as this new, big threat.

5.) Second Chance Tag Team Tournament – Four-Way Elimination Match – The Bravado Brothers vs. Catch Point (Drew Gulak & TJ Perkins) vs. Roppongi Vice vs. Team Tremendous: ***3/4

This is the last match in the #1 Contender’s Tournament, which is basically a loser’s bracket. Interestingly enough, despite their dominance in the aforementioned segment, Catch Point were actually the first team eliminated. The Bravado Brothers & Roppongi Vice worked together to beat up Team Tremendous, but they would eventually turn on each other, and this led to Roppongi Vice eliminating The Bravado Brothers. It came down to Roppongi Vice vs. Team Tremendous (a rematch from Evolve 53), and in the end, Team Tremendous actually managed to avenge their loss from that initial encounter to score the victory and become the #1 Contenders to the Evolve Tag Team Titles. That was actually a really nice story they told here, with Roppongi Vice cheating to win at Evolve 53, but Team Tremendous got the last laugh in the end. I thought this match was a ton of fun. Of course, it was a little crazy to start out, with four teams in the match, but as a whole, I thought it was pretty enjoyable from start to finish. All four teams had a chance to shine, and I really like the fact that we got to see a different team from the usual bunch get a big win.

6.) Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament – Finals – Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano vs. Heroes Eventually Die: ****

The fact that this was the second tag team tournament in a few month span that had two “makeshift” teams in the Finals (The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic in NXT did the same thing) irked me a little bit, but I think I’m more forgiving in this case. Chris Hero & Tommy End have proved that they’re awesome as a tag team (and they would go on to team several more times, in a number of different promotions, throughout 2016), and I think they’ve done a solid job with this Galloway/Gargano team. As far as this match goes, it wasn’t the best the match of the tournament, and it wasn’t even the best match on this show. However, this was still a great match. The crowd brawling in the beginning hurt the match a little bit, but honestly, I’m not as bothered by a little crowd brawling like other people are. Is it always necessary? No, but I’m not one to get angry if it does happen. The action in the ring was pretty great. Hero & End are a fantastic team, while Galloway & Gargano get better as a unit with each match. There was a weird spot where Hero & End got into a disagreement and got out their anger through hitting each other, before going back to beating up Galloway & Gargano, but other than that, the in-ring stuff was really, really good here. Eventually, Galloway & Gargano would score the victory to become the first-ever Evolve Tag Team Champions!

The two teams show respect towards each other after the match. Gargano cut a promo about how he made history this weekend, first by working NXT & Evolve on the same night, and then by becoming the first-ever Evolve Tag Team Champions. They put each other over, and say they’re proud to be the first champions. The two then celebrate with the fans to close the show.

Overall: 8.75/10

When looking back on this entire weekend for Evolve, I would say that this ended up being the best show of the three. It had the second best match of the weekend in the form of Matt Riddle vs. Tracy Williams in the 2016 Style Battle Tournament Finals (which was a pretty awesome match!), and as a whole, it was a lot more consistent than Evolve 54, as for me, only one match was under ***1/2. This was a great show from start to finish. Not only did it have great matches, which included the first-ever Evolve Tag Team Champions being crowned, but we had a number of Evolve Title defenses for Timothy Thatcher set up. As a whole, the entire weekend for Evolve really climaxed with this great show. In general, it was just a fantastic weekend for Evolve, and all three shows are worth checking out.

Evolve 54 Review

The Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament & The 2016 Style Battle Tournament continue, while the #1 Contender's Tournament begins!!

Evolve 54
Orlando, Florida 1/23/16

1.) Second Chance Tag Team Title Tournament – Team Tremendous vs. The Premiere Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley with SoCal Val & Andrea): ***1/2

The show opened up with the first match in the #1 Contender’s Tournament, which is basically a “Loser’s Bracket”. Both of these teams were eliminated from the actual Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament the night before at Evolve 53, with The Premiere Athlete Brand losing to the returning Bravado Brothers, while Team Tremendous lost a hard-fought match with Roppongi Vice. As far as this match goes, I thought it was a really good opening match. I’ve always enjoyed watching Team Tremendous, and the crowd here in Orlando (one of Evolve’s largest crowds at the time with around 400-500, a record that would soon be shattered a few months later) was really into them. I think Konley & Nese worked very well with them, and I guess the fact that they’d been teasing a PAB breakup made their matches a little more enjoyable because I knew the team was ending soon (that sounds weird, but I don’t know, I just liked them a little more in these final months of the act). In the end, Team Tremendous would get the victory.

After the match, The Premiere Athlete Brand immediately attacked Dan Barry & Bill Carr. Caleb Konley took the mic and basically blew off The Premiere Athlete Brand, saying that he didn’t need this tag team, and demands a match with Timothy Thatcher for the Evolve Title. Nese continues to attack Team Tremendous by himself until Peter Kaasa comes out to make the save.

I should note that Triple H was backstage for this show, and he sent out this tweet....

2.) 2016 Style Battle Tournament – Matt Riddle vs. Fred Yehi: ***1/4

Matt Riddle is 1-0 after his victory at Evolve 53 over Peter Kaasa, while Fred Yehi is 0-1 after falling to Tracy Williams on that very same show. This was a pretty solid match, in my opinion. I was definitely a better outing for Riddle this time out. It wasn’t a very long match (it was around six minutes or so), but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. Both guys were grappling and hitting some nice suplexes on each other. For the time they were given, they did a very good job here. Eventually, Riddle would get the submission victory over Yehi to move to 2-0 in the Style Battle Tournament.

3.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. “Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa: ***1/2

I believe this is the Evolve debut for Tommaso Ciampa (who now used “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads as him theme, which is actually quite awesome!). He spent a number of years in ROH before deciding to explore other options, which eventually led him to NXT, where he formed a tag team with Johnny Gargano. Speaking of “Johnny Wrestling”, Ethan Page is continuing here on his “Trial Series” of sorts to prove to Johnny Gargano that he has changed his ways. Despite the fact that this match went much longer than it needed to go (definitely a criticism of the match), I still thought it was really good. Ironically enough, these two had a pretty enjoyable match on ROH Road To “Best In The World ‘14”: Night 1 in June 2014 (back when Page was briefly known in ROH as Ethan Gabriel Owens), and they definitely better than effort with this match. There was some very good action throughout, but again, the match was just a little too long. However, I think the fact that this match continued the Ethan Page storyline pretty well (with Ethan Page fighting valiantly, but losing) balances out that aforementioned negative. Tommaso Ciampa would get the win here in his Evolve debut.

4.) Second Chance Tag Team Tournament – Catch Point (Drew Gulak & TJ Perkins with Matt Riddle & Tracy Williamps) vs. Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre Jr.: ***3/4

Catch Point are coming off a loss to Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano the night before at Evolve 53, while the makeshift team of Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre Jr. fell to Heroes Eventually Die in a legitimate MOTYC. I forgot to mention this in my review of Evolve 53, but Callihan wrestled in his orange hoodie for most of the match (for some reason), and is doing so again in this match (for reasons unknown). Hoodie complaints aside, this was still a very good match. There was some good action throughout, and I think these two teams worked well together (Zack Sabre Jr. in particular worked very well with both Drew Gulak & TJ Perkins). They also told a good story with Callihan & Sabre Jr. having a ton of miscommunications, and that eventually cost them the match, as Catch Point picked up the win.

After the match, Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre Jr. got into an argument. Callihan spit at Sabre Jr. and challenged him to a match the next day at Evolve 55. Sabre Jr. then slapped Callihan before accepting his challenge.

During intermission, NXT General Manager William Regal (who was there signing autographs with American Alpha), made an in-ring appearance (that didn't air on the iPPV) with Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher. Matt Riddle interrupted them, and challenged Thatcher to an Evolve Title Match. 

5.) 2016 Style Battle Tournament – Tracy Williams (with Drew Gulak) vs. Peter Kaasa: **1/4

Williams enters this match 1-0 after beating Fred Yehi at Evolve 53, while Kassa is 0-1 after losing to Matt Riddle on the same show. This…wasn’t that good, but it wasn’t a bad match either. It was….painfully average. If there was anything resembling a highlight, it was Kaasa hitting his head on the guardrail (or at least it looked like he did) on some kind of corkscrew dive to the floor on Williams. These two just didn’t mesh very well together at all. Also, this match went way too long, which didn’t help matters. Williams would, in the end, get the submission victory over Kaasa. A very forgettable match, in my opinion.

With that result, both Peter Kaasa & Fred Yehi have been eliminated, meaning that Matt Riddle vs. Tracy Williams at Evolve 55 (a battle of Catch Point members), will determine the winner of the 2016 Style Battle Tournament. After his victory, Williams cut a promo saying that he will end Matt Riddle’s undefeated streak and win the Style Battle Tournament.

6.) Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament – Semi-Finals – Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano vs. The Bravado Brothers: ***1/2

This is the first of two Semi-Final Matches in the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament. Thankfully, there were no travel issues of any kind with Galloway or Gargano, and we got this match as scheduled. I thought this was pretty good. While I would say that this was yet another match that could have benefited with a few minutes being shaved off, this was still very solid. The Bravado Brothers looked pretty good here, and in general, they just feel like a breath of fresh air compared to year prior, when I think most people were over them in Evolve. Galloway & Gargano also worked well together has a team here, pulling some unique double team moves, including a reverse Alabama Slam by Galloway into the GargaNO Escape, which ended up winning the match for Galloway & Gargano. They advance to the Finals of the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament.

7.) Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament – Semi-Finals – Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero & Tommy End) vs. Roppongi Vice: ****1/4

This was something else that I forget to mention in my review of Evolve 53, but Heroes Eventually Die is an AWESOME tag team name!! One thing that I really like about this match is that it’s between two great teams who really don’t interact with each other at all, since Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta are mainly New Japan/ROH guys at the moment, while Chris Hero & Tommy End were mainly freelancers. I thought this was an awesome Main Event! Obviously it couldn’t possibly match the amazing tag team match from the night before, but still, this was a great match. Roppongi Vice are such an entertaining tag team, and in just two matches, Heroes Eventually Die have become one of the best tag teams in the entire world. There was great back & forth action throughout this match. Easily the best match on the show, in my opinion. In the end, Heroes Eventually Die would pick up the victory.

This means that the Finals of the Evolve Tag Team Tournament will be Heroes Eventually Die vs. Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano. It also means that the Finals of the #1 Contender’s/“Last Chance” Tournament was set as well. It would be Roppongi Vice vs. The Bravado Brothers vs. Catch Point vs. Team Tremendous in a Four-Way Elimination Match to determine the #1 Contenders to the Evolve Tag Team Titles.

After the match, Chris Hero cuts a promo saying that tomorrow, he & Tommy End are going to knock some people out and win some title belts.

Overall: 8.0/10

While I think this show wasn’t quite as good as Evolve 53 from the night before, this was still a really solid show. Aside from Peter Kaasa vs. Tracy Williams (which was definitely the worst match on the show), I’d say this show was slightly more consistent. Heroes Eventually Die vs. Roppongi Vice was easily the best match of the show (it was also the only match on the show to go over ****, in my opinion). Everything else on the show was in the ***1/4-***3/4 range, with Catch Point vs. Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre Jr. being the best of the rest. As a whole, this was a very solid Part II for the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament.